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Sony Ericsson W350i Review

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The new Sony Ericsson W350i is a mid-level ranged mobile phone that adds to the Walkman series portfolio. As it has been a long time since a famous handset manufacturer launched a flip phone, W350i brings back the Sony Ericsson's T series feeling. Revamped and improved, W350i's design has that special retro look that will certainly make it as an 'eye-catcher' device. The public targeted is definitely going to love it, while those that are looking for a camera-phone or business-oriented device will probably hate it. In the end, it's all about personal preferences.

Announced in January 2008, Sony Ericsson W350i was launched on the market in May 2008. The flip phone is available in four different color versions: Graphic white, Ice blue, Electric black and Hypnotic black. Those interested in a good-looking mid-level handset can acquire it for around $230 USD.

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Design

The handset is made of pure plastic; it looks more like a toy rather than a cheap phone. The backside cover is made from a rubber-like plastic, while the rest is lusterless plastic. The device strongly resembles Sony Ericsson's T series, with its flip clap and retro design. The thin flip looks really flimsy and features external music controls. These offer haptic feedback when they're pressed. Actually, the user pushes the numeric keypad when using the external controls.

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Even if the phone looks small and compact, I was disappointed by the flimsy flip, which can be easily damaged when frequently used. Above the flip, there's a very small display protected by scratch resistant plastic. Near the bottom left of the screen, there is a small light sensor which adjusts the backlighting of the keypad. On right side of the phone, there is a dual volume key that can also be used to mute an incoming call (one press) or to simply reject it (two presses). The left side features a small dedicated button that will open up the Walkman interface when the flip is not closed or show the music player menu when the flip is closed. Lower on the left side, there is the proprietary Sony Ericsson port used to charge the phone or to attach the headphones in the sales package. On top of the device, there is a small key that controls the locking mechanism of the external music keys placed on the thin flip.

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The backside of the phone features a small unprotected 1.3 Megapixel camera at the top and a small loudspeaker at the bottom. The back cover is so slim that you can actually see through it (I’m joking!). Even so, it is extremely flexible, thus reducing the chances to break it. When flipped down, the phone reveals a comfortable keypad, visible even under low light conditions thanks to the very good backlighting system. While the big D-pad controller is reasonably responsive, the keys offer an excellent tactile experience, which makes texting a smooth and enjoyable experience. Moreover, the phone's flip can be opened with one hand, thus improving its functionality.

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The phone is lightweight (80g including battery) and small in size (104 x 43 x 10.5 mm), which will surely attract fans of mid-level devices. Overall, Sony Ericsson W350i looks compact and slim, but also 'old' and flimsy. Its retro aspect has already attracted lots of fans, but quite some enemies as well.


Display and Camera

Sony Ericsson W350i features a very small (1.9 inches) TFT display that supports 262k colors and 176x220 pixels resolution. The screen is perfectly visible in strong sunlight conditions and may be reckoned as one of the best in its range. Unfortunately, its small size takes away all the fun and considerably limits functionality. Check out the various benchmark results scored by Sony Ericsson W350i’s display.

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The 1.3 Megapixel camera features no enhancements (i.e. flash, autofocus, macro) and it is not protected. Moreover, it lacks video capabilities and shake control functions. The maximum resolution of the snapshots is 1280x1024 pixels and the camera interface is standard for this range of phone.

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There are some features that can be used with the camera: Shoot mode (Normal, Burst), Effects (Black&White, Negative and Sepia), White balance (Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent and Incandescent), Picture quality (Normal and Fine), Night Mode and Shutter sound. These functions merely make the pictures bigger or smaller in size, rather than improve the quality of the snapshots.

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Those looking for a phone with a good camera should avoid Sony Ericsson W350i, as it only offers basic picturing capabilities. As seen in the samples below, quality is mediocre when pictures are taken in very good light conditions; otherwise, they will be full of noise, especially those taken indoors.

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Menu and Software

W350i features the same interface that has lately been embedded in all Sony Ericsson low- and mid-budget handsets. Featuring Flash Lite support enables users to change the phone's appearance beyond recognition. The menu is user-friendly and won't raise difficulties to owners.

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There are few productivity tools that can be used such as Alarms (limited to 5), Tasks, Notes, Calendar, Timer, Stopwatch, Calculator, Code memo and a basic File manager. The Gallery can be found through the File manager in the folder called Camera album and can also be accessed through the camera interface menu. The Internet icon, as the name suggests, gives users access to basic Web browsing. The Radio only works when the wired earphones are inserted.

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Then, there are the usual shortcuts that will give the user access to some of the handset's functions: Walkman (opens up the music player), Messaging, Calls, Contacts and Settings. The Entertainment sub-folder contains a few functions more or less specific to the Walkman series devices: TrackID, MusicDJ, Video player, Record sound and Games (QuadraPop, Guitar Rock Tour and Extreme Air Snowboarding).

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The Java emulator works with just about any compatible application, like games or productivity software. Overall, SE's W350i user-interface offers quite a number of features and medium functionality at a low price.

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Communication

The flip phone has GPRS and EDGE Class 10 technology, but lacks any 3G capability. Fortunately, you won't have any trouble if you're into Web-browsing, as speed is very good for a mid-level phone (142 Kbit/s download and 61 Kbit/s).

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The device also embeds Bluetooth 2.0 technology with A2DP support, which does its job fairly (41 KB/s sending and 45 KB/s receiving).

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The specific Sony Ericsson port placed on the left side of the phone enables users to connect it to a PC via a USB cable, but that will not charge the battery.

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In terms of messaging, the phone accepts standard text messages, MMS (300 KB attachments), flash and sound messages, as well as emails. The message client works with POP3, SMTP, and IMAP4 protocols and supports several email accounts.

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The triband (GSM 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 1900) network compatible flip phone has a good GSM signal reception. The sound is above average in quality at both ends and pretty loud. Unfortunately, I have experienced frequent interruptions during phone calls, even in areas with good GSM signal reception. The vibration alert is somewhat mediocre in intensity and cannot be set to higher levels.


Processor and Memory

Sony Ericsson W350i is powered by an ARM9 family processor running at speeds of up to 126 Mhz. This is pretty solid for a mid tier device like Sony Ericsson W350i.

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I have experienced no hiccups or lags when using Java applications or browsing the menus. I have tested the device with JBenchmark Pro, and you can see the results below.

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The handset has only 14MB user free internal memory, but this can be expanded, as the phone features an M2 slot card.

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That can be found under the back hood near the battery (not under), which means that it's hot-swappable. Furthermore, Sony Ericsson W350i comes with a 512MB M2 memory card in the sales package, but it also supports 2GB M2 memory cards.

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Multimedia

Sony Ericsson W350i flip phone doesn't feature any high-end multimedia function, so don't expect more than medium quality sound. Anyway, because it adds to the Walkman series portfolio, the phone includes features that are only available for this series’ handsets. One of them is the Mega-Bass equalizer setting specific and the Walkman music player 2.0. The latter can be run in the background while listening to music.

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The default skin of the music player can be changed and visualization effects displayed for more in-depth multimedia experience. There's also an FM radio with RDS function that stores up to 20 base stations, and can also be run in the background. The HPM-64 wired stereo headset included in the sales package offers medium quality sound, but can be replaced by 3.5 mm headphones.

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The loudspeaker has been placed at the base of the backside and sounds average in intensity. Even if the phone cannot record clips, Sony Ericsson included a Video player which can play movies in full screen mode. The MusicDJ and TrackID features are also included to make things nicer. Overall, Sony Ericsson's W350i offers above average multimedia experience, but that's not a surprise for a Walkman series handset.

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Battery

W350i flip phone uses a Li-Polymer 900 mAh standard battery that has a standby time of 300 hours and up to seven hours of talk time. Actually, the phone's battery exhausted after about five hours of talk time and a little bit over 200 hours in standby mode. The playback time is around 12-14 hours, and I would not expect less from a Sony Ericsson Walkman series handset. Overall, W350i's battery performance reflects the quality of the device - above average.

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Impressions

Classy and stylish, Sony Ericsson W350i reminded me (with pleasure) of the T series handset that was highly regarded in the past. Its retro look aroused my interest the first time I laid my eyes on it. Very nice to the touch, balanced, slim and compact, Sony Ericsson W350i is one of the few low-budget phones that I would buy.


The Good

There are quite a few nice features that make W350i a good choice as a low-budget phone. Exquisite design, good quality multimedia features, above average battery and the possibility to expand its storage space make Sony Ericsson's W350i worth every penny. I cannot miss the low price of the handset, which turns it more appealing to the fans of the Swedish-Japanese company.


The Bad

I have found that not always a high quality display is enough for a handset; it also has to be a large one. The 1.9 inches TFT screen is surely too small for a multimedia-oriented handset and is definitely one important slack of the flip phone. Also, even if it looks compact, after using it for one month, I have discovered that it is a little bit flimsy, especially due to its thin flip. The last negative point 'scored' by W350i is the low quality camera, which should've been at least 2 Megapixel or not at all.


Sales package

900 mAh Li-Polymer Battery (BST-37)
512 MB M2 memory card
Wired stereo headset (HPM-64)
USB data cable
Charger
User Guide
Sony Ericsson PC Suite CD

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